Ochenski: Desperate measures 

Bush, Martz dwell in a simplistic, unreal world

President Bush and Gov. Martz are both getting mighty nervous as they watch their chances at meaningful political leadership unravel before their very eyes. In an attempt to dodge domestic issues, Bush continues to rattle sabers loudly and pound the drums of war—all the while ignoring the increasing signs that the world is starting to view the United States as a “rogue nation” for the manner in which Bush is conducting our global environmental, trade, and military affairs. Closer to home, Gov. Martz faces a similar meltdown as a lackluster economy and massive budget deficit add to her endless blunders. Both Bush and Martz fear the coming midterm elections, which will be seen as referendums on their “leadership,” and both are taking increasingly desperate, dangerous, and divisive measures to boost their tarnished images as the November elections draw nigh.

Fresh back from his month-long vacation, President Bush returns to Washington to face ballooning deficit spending, a plunging stock market, and a host of pressing, unfinished legislative goals with an increasingly divided Congress that is unlikely to simply assent to his wishes, as it did in the days and months following Sept. 11. Bush and his barking dog Cheney believe that keeping Americans paranoid and focused on war will distract their attention from the crumbling internal affairs while quashing opposition to their radical plans to significantly reduce liberty, freedom, and equality for Americans under the guise of “national security.”

There are signs the wheels are coming off the Bush war wagon, however, as internal dissent splits Republicans both in and out of the administration. Secretary of State Colin Powell, a lifelong military professional and combat veteran, has repeatedly urged Bush to cool the rhetoric on Saddam Hussein and seek a different path than full-on military intervention to achieve Bush’s desired “regime change” in Iraq. Yet, despite the fact that Powell is joined in his prudent approach by a significant number of present and former military advisers, as well as most countries in the world, the non-military “chicken hawks” within the top echelons of the Bush administration continue to demand Saddam’s head. Time magazine reports that Powell intends to divorce himself from the Bush administration at the end of its first (and we can only hope only) term. The question, given such major differences in how to conduct world policy, is whether Powell will even make it that long.

Meanwhile, at the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development, French President Jacques Chiraq declared: “Humanity has a rendezvous with destiny. Alarms are sounding across all the continents. We cannot say that we did not know!” He is speaking of global climate change, and its now undeniable effects on people and environments the world round. Noble words for a noble cause, but for George W. Bush, this is a “rendezvous with destiny” that he chose to avoid. Instead of joining other world leaders to seek solutions, the Bush contingent teamed up with Saudi Arabia to vehemently oppose efforts to expand global development of renewable energy such as wind and solar.

Here in Montana, we have our own desperado in the governor’s office. After what can only be described as a disastrous 18 months in office, her administration riddled with personal and professional ignominy, Martz has turned to desperate measures of her own.

With more bad press headed her way when she calls the Legislature back into a $70,000 special session to fix the budget bill they passed without an implementation date, Martz seeks to distract public attention from her administration’s multitude of failures by launching a war of her own. Taking to her gubernatorial podium with religious fervor and mimicking President Bush, the governor has declared war on “ecoterrorists,” whom she blames for everything from forest fires to the economy. Oblivious to her own specious logic, Martz recently announced that the only way to keep our forests healthy is by cutting them down. Her tough-love prescription for forests calls for allowing those in the timber industry, whom she calls “the physicians of the forests,” to do “whatever is right” with no appeals allowed.

Actions speak louder than words, however, and it will take more than Martz’s threatening epithets to fool Montanans. The massive clearcuts from the past liquidation of corporate and federal timberlands readily attest to the fact that most of the “operations” performed by these “forest physicians” resulted in mountains covered with short-stump “amputations” and crisscrossed by ugly, unhealed road scars. Given the governor’s stated intention to turn the timber industry loose on what’s left of Montana’s forests, no matter what she says about “ecoterrorists,” it is reassuring to know there are dedicated environmentalists who will try their damnedest to enforce the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm” on these chainsaw “doctors.”

Both Bush and Martz live in a strange world where there are only “evil doers” and “good guys.” In the Bush/Martz world, you either blindly trust them without question to “do what’s right,” or you’re an unpatriotic ecoterrorist. But that world, of course, simply does not exist. In the real world, there are as many valid differences of opinion as there are languages, faces, and colors. In the real world, the delicate interplay of personal and national interests is handled best by those who not only acknowledge, but fully honor the vast diversity of the world.

Unfortunately, neither Bush nor Martz are doing much to honor diversity these days. Unable or unwilling to develop solutions to the very real problems facing them on the global, national, and state level, these two marginal leaders choose to demonize their enemies and polarize complex public policy issues in a shameful attempt to quash dissent and turn citizens against each other over their political or environmental beliefs.

Their efforts, however, are doomed. Every day, more people here at home and around the world are coming to see Bush and Martz for what they really are: desperate people instituting increasingly desperate, dangerous, and divisive measures.

When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Missoula Independent.

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